The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published new guidelines on physical activities, sedentary behaviour and screen time for children under the age of five. According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director General, “Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains.”
These guidelines were derived when WHO’s panel of experts assessed the effects on young children of inadequate sleep, and time spent sitting watching screens or restrained in chairs and prams. They also reviewed evidence about the benefits of increased activity levels and physical activity for children in general. “Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life,” said Dr. Fiona Bull, programme manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable disease. If healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep habits are established early in life, this helps shape habits throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.
Recommendations at a glance
Infants less than a year old should:
- Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.
- Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time in a pram / stroller, highchair or baby carrier. Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
- Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.
Children 1-2 years of age should:
- Spend at least 180 minutes participating in various physical activities of any intensity.
- Not be restrained for more than an hour at a time in a pram / stroller, highchair or baby carrier. For one-year-olds, sedentary screen time (watching TV, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged two and above, sedentary screen time should be no more than one hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
- Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep including naps with regular sleep and wake-up times.
Children 3-4 years of age should:
- Spend at least 180 minutes participating in various of physical activities of any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes should be moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity spread throughout the day.
- Not be restrained for more than an hour at a time or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than an hour. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
- Have 10–13h of good quality sleep including naps with regular sleep and wake-up times.
This article has been republished with permission from Hello Doktor